If you’re spending the festive season alone this year, here’s how to make it a positive experience.
For most people, the word ‘Christmas’ conjures up images of a big family gathering and a delicious feast. But for some, the festive season doesn’t look like that. In fact, according to research carried out by mental health charity Mind, a third of people are too embarrassed to admit they feel lonely at Christmas.
‘Being alone at Christmas can feel tough, especially when so much of the image that is presented for Christmas is people together, sharing food and having a jolly time,’ says Siân Duffin, student support manager at Arden University.
So, if you find yourself alone this Christmas out of choice or circumstance, there is plenty you can do to turn what could be a lonely day into a positive experience. Read on for our 8 tips on how to enjoy a solo Christmas:
1.Reframe the idea of loneliness
You might be alone this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely. In fact, being alone and feeling lonely are two very different things.
‘It is commonly believed that loneliness is a direct result of being on our own,’ says Dr Megan Jones Bell, chief science officer at Headspace. ‘While that can be an important contributing factor, this is usually a misconception. We can be on our own and not feel lonely, but then be surrounded by others, including family and friends, and yet still feel lonely. It’s important to note the crucial distinction between being alone and feeling alone.’
It’s important to note the crucial distinction between being alone and feeling alone.
So how do you reframe loneliness? ‘If we can accept that loneliness exists in the mind, and is not dependent on us being physically alone, then there is the possibility that loneliness can be reframed in our mind,’ explains Dr Jones Bell. ‘The first step to working with our mind constructively is to let go of external blame. It is not others imposing loneliness on us; it is our own perception and experience.
‘This shift of perspective and mindset can take time, as loneliness is a complex emotion. And it’s OK to feel sadness and negativity, and be overwhelmed by these feelings. Nevertheless, it’s also possible to be open to them – meditation can help.’
- Make it special, but different
OK, so you want Christmas Day to feel special, but tradition doesn’t have to dictate what makes it magical, so mix it up.
‘Who says you must be traditional at Christmas?’ says Duffin. ‘Instead of turkey and sprouts, have pizza, or party food, or just a plate of pigs in blankets if that is the best bit for you. Decorate your space in funky colours or buy new PJs and stay in them all day. Queue up your favourite films or binge watch a box-set.’
- Get some fresh air
Getting outside is proven to be important for your mental health, so stepping into the fresh air is important on the big day.
‘Not many places are open on Christmas day itself, but you could consider a trip to a beach or other place that is special to you,’ says Duffin. ‘Feeling connected to the world outside can make you feel energised. Try a walk if you don’t drive and look for things to collect to make a collage, or take some pictures to print and frame.’
- Practise self-care at Christmas
If you’re anxious about the concept of your own company, use your alone time to indulge in a spot of self-care that you might not normally have time for.
‘Make sure you indulge in some self-care and do all the things that make you happy,’ says Amy Holland, founder of Single Parents’ Wellbeing. ‘That might be an early morning yoga class, eating food that you love or watching a box set with a face mask on.’
- Reach out a helping hand
If you’re at a loose end, why not help others have a merrier Christmas this year? Acts of altruism can also in turn make you feel pretty good too.
Volunteer at a local shelter or see if there’s a café offering Christmas dinner for people who are on their own.
‘There are many places where you can connect if being on your own all day is too much,’ says Duffin. ‘Volunteer at a local shelter or see if there’s a café or other place offering Christmas dinner for those people who are on their own. If you are very lonely or struggling with your mental health, The Samaritans will be available to talk on the day – call 116 123.’
- Create online connections
The world of social media is a blessing and a curse that can sometimes be a difficult place if you’re feeling lonely, but at times like Christmas, an online community can offer you a lifeline.
‘The comedian Sarah Millican hosts an online get together on Twitter each year, under the hashtag #joinin, where other people who are on their own can chat about their day and what they are doing,’ says Duffin. ‘Alternatively, it may feel too difficult to see others posting online, so you might want to consider limiting your social media use on the day if that is the case.’
- Be productive with your time
You know that project you haven’t had time to start? Why not begin on Christmas Day?
‘Make it a useful day!’ suggests Duffin. ‘Paint a room, achieve some study goals, do some research for your job or plan something to look forward to after the festive period has finished.’
- Look for the positives
Don’t assume everyone else is enjoying a picture-perfect family Christmas and having a better day than you – you may well be wrong.
‘It’s easy to fall into the “Everyone’s having a wonderful Christmas except me” trap,’ says Hannah Martin, founder of Talented Ladies Club. ‘But while you’re sitting there in peace and quiet, watching the film you’ve chosen, and eating and drinking exactly what you like, spare a thought for the 68 per cent of people who anticipate arguing with family over Christmas.’
For all the jolly build-up in the media, 38 per cent of people say they find Christmas stressful.
There are a few unexpected benefits to flying solo at Christmas. ‘You’ll also avoid the epic washing and clearing up required after a large family Christmas lunch and, again, the arguments over who’s not pulling their weight,’ adds Martin. ‘In fact, for all the jolly build-up in the media and on social media, 38 per cent of people say they find Christmas stressful. It’s a fair bet that many of them would fancy a quiet Christmas for once!’